Somalia’s regional leaders urge end to power struggle

Row over the government escalated when President Mohamed suspended the executive powers of PM Roble.

Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is accused of seeking to sabotage the functioning of the government [File: Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP Photo]

Somalia’s regional leaders have appealed to the president and the prime minister to end their damaging feud, warning of the risk of political instability in the Horn of Africa nation.

The row sharply escalated on Thursday when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who is popularly known as Farmaajo, suspended the executive powers of Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble – a move swiftly rejected by the premier as “unlawful”.

The two men have been at odds over top security appointments in a dispute that threatens to imperil repeatedly delayed elections and distract from efforts to confront a long-running rebellion.

On Friday, leaders of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous states called on the protagonists to stop “exchanging statements”, resolve their differences through mediation and respect the interim constitution.

“The presidents of the federal member states are concerned about the current conflict in Somali federal institutions which does not serve the public interest, leads to insecurity and political instability,” they said in a statement.

The leaders of Jubbaland, South West, Galmudug, Hirshabele and Puntland also urged electoral bodies to speed up the long-delayed polls.

President withdraws PM’s powers

Farmaajo had announced that he was withdrawing Roble’s powers, particularly the ability to hire and fire officials, until the election process was completed.

He accused Roble – the man he appointed just a year ago – of violating the constitution and taking “reckless decisions which can pave the way for political and security instability”.

Roble in turn lashed out at Farmaajo, dismissing the move against him and accusing the president of seeking to sabotage the functioning of the government.

He also instructed Somali “security forces not to intermingle with the politics”, as the dispute raises the spectre of fresh violence erupting in Mogadishu.

The bitter power struggle became public last week when Roble sacked Somalia’s spy chief over his handling of a high-profile probe into the disappearance of a young intelligence agent.

Farmaajo overruled the prime minister, appointing the dumped intelligence official as his national security adviser.

Ikran Tahlil, a 25-year-old officer with the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), was abducted near her Mogadishu home in June, and her employers concluded that she had been killed by al-Shabab fighters.

The fighters issued a denial, while Tahlil’s family accused NISA of murdering her.

Elections delayed

Somalia has been struggling to hold elections for months.

Farmaajo’s four-year mandate expired in February, but was extended by parliament in April, triggering deadly gun battles in Mogadishu, with some rivals viewing it as a flagrant power grab.

Roble cobbled together a new timetable for elections, but the process has fallen behind, and on Thursday he accused Farmaajo of trying to foil the voting process.

Elections in Somalia follow a complex indirect model, whereby state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers for the national parliament, who in turn choose the president.

The next phase is scheduled for October 1 to November 25 with elections for the lower house of parliament, but voting has yet to take place in some states for the upper house as previously scheduled.

Source: AFP